The Gospel imperative of Obama’s Fair Chance Business Pledge

Johnathan Kana

Johnathan Kana
April 27, 2016

The Fair Chance Business Pledge echoes the work of a God of second chances.

Stephen Griffis
April 28, 2016

I believe that a criminal record, in and of itself, should not a person from employment. However, a person's criminal history is an important factor in hiring. There are a number of industries that should not hire someone whose criminal past poses a risk to the company. Having the opportunity of explaining the circumstances of a criminal activity is the better way of dealing with the issue.

April 28, 2016

In Reply to Stephen D Griffis (comment #28132)

Right on, Stephen. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Even as an ex-con, I think it would be irresponsible for certain organizations to put me to work for them--sometimes even as a volunteer. So I don't disagree with anything you say.

But...that phrase "poses a risk to the company" is a wide open door to a host of other problems. I agree in principle...absolutely. But the devil is in the details, right? I wonder whether, as a rule, corporate risk-management assessments don't tend to be overly pessimistic about the real threat that ex-offenders pose in the workplace. I wonder whether many inflexible top-down corporate no-hire policies are overkill for the actual risk exposure they're intended to combat.

I'm sure some companies take the time to study these things, but I suspect more often than not these judgments are made at an upper management tier without access to or without sober consideration of the best available evidence regarding re-offense for various classes of crime. Worse, these decisions may be influenced by input from others (like insurance companies, legal departments, supply chain partners, etc.) with vested interests in reducing THEIR liability exposure in the unlikely event that an ex-offender's behavior at another's organization becomes grounds for action against them.

One big example comes to mind. If you've been to prison, chances are you have little or no chance of getting hired, even for an entry-level labor opening, through a staffing company. Why? Not because your risk level has been properly assessed relative to the job for which you're seeking assignment, but because the organization hiring you touts as a "selling point" of their "product" that they only hire laborers with clean records. That gives the impression of better value for the service they provide their customers, and it becomes explicit in their contractual arrangements with large corporations who rely on contingent workforces. It's also an insidious way for upper management of a corporation to pass the liability buck further down the line and say they're open to hiring ex-offenders for the PR bit, while still hiring relatively few, since it's not technically THEIR policy that prevents them from working at the company. It's the staffing company's. But the risk exposure for the staffing company and the risk exposure for the actual corporation are very different things, and the de facto effect is to bar an ex-offender from a fair shot at a job for which he or she is perfectly qualified and against which neither company necessarily stands much risk.

Perhaps if the smaller players in the corporate world start taking well-considered risks with ex-offenders, it will become apparent even to the bigger players that they're missing out on acquiring some very valuable assets, and this will manifest in their ability to compete more with those unwilling to employ ex-offenders at all.

Thorny issues, for sure.

Doug Vande Griend
April 29, 2016

My experience suggests that the smaller the company, the more the owner(s) of the company are connected to the day-to-day operation of the company, the more likely the company will be to hire those with criminal records. And vice versa.

High levels of business regulation, especially federal regulation, tends to favor larger businesses, pushing smaller ones out of business, or to be sold/absorbed by/into larger ones. Sadly, our historical records suggests we will continue the trend that disfavors the employment of those with criminal records.

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